New owners maintain traditions and move forward at the Miss Batavia Diner

Aug 24, 2016

You might call it destiny.

Lance and Danielle Engel had considered buying other restaurants over their years in the city.

But only one truly stood out for them — what’s now the Miss Batavia Diner.

“I used to come in here and eat all the time,” Lance said Tuesday. “I sat in a booth with (our daughter) Tessa, and I said, ‘Wouldn’t be cool to own this place? It’s not to big and it’s not too small. It seems like the perfect little place to me.’”

Lance and Danielle took over the restaurant two weeks ago with the retirement of former owners Jim and Lisa Katriliotis. They’re keeping it the same place people have known over the decades, but with a few personal touches of their own.

The Engels are longtime veterans of the restaurant trade. Lance is an experienced chef/manager who attended the Culinary Institute of America. Danielle spent 16 years as a nurse, but worked before that at the former Candlelight Restaurant on Jackson Street.

“We’ve been married for 25 years and we’ve been together for 30, so we’ve been doing this together,” Danielle said. “We talked about buying the Candlelight years ago when it was changing hands, but our kids were young, so we decided not to do that, at that point.”

They were familiar with the Miss Batavia, and live around the corner — within easy walking distance — so the location was a natural choice. One of their children alerted them 18 months ago that the business was for sale, and took the opportunity.

What’s new and what’s the same?

Longtime chef Dave Barone has been with the Miss Batavia for 26 years and has stayed on, along with the staff — the Engles give them huge credit for helping manage a smooth transition.

Especially at a place that’s a Batavia icon.

“We didn’t want to scare people with a bunch of changes,” Danielle said. “The menu still is very, very familiar to everyone.

“It was challenging and scary at first to think about, because it’s been here since 1933. But with the staff we’ve had, who are phenomenal. A lot of our staff have been here a long time and they’ve stayed with us.”

Barone said the waitresses introduce the Engels to the regular customers, and keep the restaurant’s flow intact.

“It’s been so smooth, it’s unbelievable,” Danielle said.

“It’s been 12 days and it couldn’t have been much better,” Lance added.

All four of the couple’s children and their significant others have also helped out at the location, making it a family affair.

The decor has changed slightly, with old advertisements taking the establishment a bit closer to its original diner roots.

The Engels have also added crepes to the breakfast menu, along with some other small additions. They’re also offering some different specials, aiming for affordable food sure to please regulars, but a step above typical diner fair.

So they’re respecting history and moving forward simultaneously.

“We’re going to continue the legacy,” Lance said.

By MATT SURTEL, Batavia Daily News